Is Facebook The New Google?
Facebook is going public soon. Right now, it's in a quiet period, but there are some hints that the social media giant will radically overhaul its onsite search engine. If it is successful, Facebook could just become the new Google. Think that's a bit far-fetched?
Consider this: Facebook may just be valued at about $100 billion. The angel investors backing Facebook want to see a return on their money. Mark Zuckerberg has to deliver. That means he has to come up with a way for the company to make more money than it does right now. Right now, Facebook is driven by ad revenue. Those little ads on the right-hand side of the page are what keeps private investors interested in the company.
When Facebook goes public, it needs to up its ad revenue to meet Wall Street valuations. The easiest way to do that seems to be increasing the visibility of ads on the site. Facebook has hired some very bright minds to take care of the details. According to Businessweek:
"Searching the social network could get a lot better in the near future. About two dozen Facebook engineers, led by a former Google engineer named Lars Rasmussen, are working on an improved search engine, say two people familiar with the project who did not want to be named because the company is in a quiet period ahead of its IPO. The goal, they say, is to help users better sift through the volume of content that members create on the site, such as status updates, and the articles, videos, and other information across the Web that people “like” using Facebook’s omnipresent thumbs-up button."
Facebook's greatest asset right now, for search, is Rasmussen. A better search engine on Facebook would allow users to better search the site for wall posts, topics, friend updates and more. The "more" is where Google could be kicked off the top of the mountain. When you're designing a search engine, and you have one of Google's former engineers, why not utilize that talent to its full potential?
In other words, why stop with searching Facebook's site? Why not search the web? Facebook has those "like" buttons everywhere now, it seems. Users could search for content all over the web based on how popular it is. It could smash Google's dream of "social search" since Facebook is clearly more popular than Google +. Facebook has momentum where Google has, well, nothing. But Facebook doesn't have to compete directly with Google.
Facebook users would probably love a better search engine on the site. The whole idea behind Facebook is that it becomes a "safe little world" that you can retreat to. There's "the Internet" and then there's "Facebook." Facebook presumably represents the best or most popular aspects of the web.
It's hard for a spammer to gain traction on a site like Facebook if only because the site requires you to be social. If you're not engaging users, they simply ignore you. Facebook is a huge popularity contest. The more users like you, the more visible you become across the site.
As far as monetization is concerned, there's nothing stopping Facebook from selling contextual-based advertising and pay-per-click ads to businesses. In fact, institutional investors may very well demand it after the IPO. Local businesses would probably benefit the most. According to a recent local search usage study done by comScore, "use of social networking sites for local business searches has increased 67 percent since 2010." If Facebook can improve its search engine, the numbers should only improve. As a business owner, you stand to benefit by paying attention to this social media giant - especially if you're a small, local, business owner. It seems that developing a Facebook fan page may not be a waste of time, or money, after all.